Ao no Exorcist © Kato Kazue

Summary: Rin's thoughts and woes on tail binding during his first weeks at True Cross Academy. Mephisto provides some useful tips.

Trial and Error

Contrary to the overall popular belief, Okumura Rin wakes up at the same time as his brother. At precisely 7am, the alarm buzzes its reedy bird-call and Yukio shuts it off before Rin can clobber it with his fist or the cloth-covered hilt of his sword. In fact, Rin is usually the first one out of bed, eager to pee before his brother can hog the bathroom first.

However, the reason he makes Yukio's blood pressure rise with his perpetual tardiness is in fact because it takes him twice as long to get ready in the mornings.

Girls have to fix their hair, put on their make up, and check themselves out an uncounted number of times before they deem themselves presentable to the public eye. The usual. In the mornings Yukio puts on his glasses, washes his face, gets dressed, and combs his hair. Rin does the same, although he spares himself the last step. He's just fine with bed head, and nobody's ever complained about it before.

The initial washing up is just routine, and hardly a problem. If that had been all, Rin would be arriving to his classes on time. But no, the difficult part comes after.

Once Yukio leaves with a parting (yet slightly disdainful), "hurry up, Nii-san," Rin makes his way back to the bathroom with an old leather belt and shuts the door.

Rin is so glad they're still young; by god if any pervert were to pinch his ass, they'd get a hell of a surprise. Koumaken is funny that way. Rin doesn't even try to understand the logistics of it. All he needs to know is that he has a tail, and normal beings of the homo sapiens persuasion are generally not supposed to have tails. Mephisto has suggested that if Rin wants to avoid any Satanist, Darwinist, or just plain uncomfortable questions, he cover it up. Unfortunately, Rin has realized that a lot of things are a great deal easier to say than to do.

Since the start of True Cross two weeks ago, he has spent the better part of his mornings trying to awkwardly bind his tail to his upper right thigh with the help of an old belt. He refuses to use a tie or something of a softer nature, since the belt had been Fujimoto's. All in all the procedure takes a good thirty minutes, and even then Rin has to walk carefully and take his seats even more gingerly. He can usually attribute the slight wince upon sitting to a bruise or a stomachache, and if he is feeling in a particularly devious mood he will crassly mention constipation. That certainly turns anyone off from asking further questions.

So this morning, Rin expects nothing different as he props a leg up on the toilet in his dress shirt and boxers, preparing for another arduous battle with pocketing the tail.

"You're going to damage the ends of it that way."

Rin nearly falls off the toilet. Granted, you would too if you suddenly found the principal sitting leisurely in your bathroom. Mephisto Pheles is propped comfortably on the sink, legs crossed and pink boots dangling elegantly in the air. In all of his elegance and sartorial splendor he seems out of place in the stark dorm bathroom.

Mephisto looks at Rin's tail and tisks. "You know back in Gehenna, a male demon's most attractive feature is his tail."

After a moment of sputtering from the initial shock of the principal in his quarters, Rin's shoulders slump. He should know better than to ask how Mephisto got here. "What do you want, you clown?" he asks irritably. Now he's going to be even later than he already is. Yukio's going to kill him. Silently. With his eyes.

"Yukio was complaining that you're always tardy to his morning classes," Mephisto replies, green eyes crinkling humorously. "Your grades will fall if your attendance continues as it is, Rin."

"Peh. It's not like my grades are that fantastic to begin with."

Mephisto's eyebrows shoot up. "Good point. Anyway, I'm here to give my little brother some advice!"

"Eh?" Rin squints.

"Your tail, your tail," Mephisto gestures, smiling. "Have you ever thought about hiding it in your shirt?"

At this Rin blinks, looking at the tail in his hand and the belt in his other. "My shirt?"

"Put the belt around your waist and tuck your tail into it," Mephisto suggests. "Trust me, it's a lot more comfortable."

Rin eyes Mephisto's slim torso with its ridiculous buttoned tailcoat and flapping mantle. "Is that what you do?"

Mephisto manages to look both amused and a trifle mortified at the same time. "Heavens no," he replies, placing a gloved hand to his chest. "My tail's quite a lot bigger than yours, and hiding it in my shirt would look like all of those sweets have gone to my hips!"

"So...where d'you put it?"

"Silly boy! Why do you think I wear petticoat breeches?"

Rin has just assumed the outfit an odd quirk of the chairman's as a result of reading too much Charlie and the Chocolate Factory combined with some hideous, outdated conception of Assiah milieu. Well, this is just another lesson that not everything at True Cross is as it seems (though Rin absently reminds himself to ask Mephisto about his thoughts on Willy Wonka one day).

"Like this?" Rin asks as he straps the tail to his chest with the belt.

"A little lower. And position the tail so it follows your body's natural shape."

"Ah!" What a simple solution! Rin grins, flashing sharp, white canines. Gone are the days of pooping while holding his tail with one hand, and of sitting down as if the chairs are made of broken eggshells. "This is awesome," he exclaims to Mephisto, who gives a nod.

"I merely wished to give you some good advice," Mephisto begins, "since you'll undoubtedly thank me later. Your tail is quite unique in its length and hair quality. Amaimon never took care of his, and now he gets turned down by all of the demonesses in the second circle. A shame, since he had such a beautiful tail..."

Rin is only half-listening as he admires the work he's done with the belt and how free his legs feel. His euphoria at the new style is curtailed, however, by a glance at his watch.

"Oh, crap! I'm gonna be late!" Rin quickly scrambles for his pants, practically jumping into them, and slips on his shoes. "Thanks, Mephisto!" he cries as he rushes to his class. Ah, it feels so good to run properly!

Mephisto lithely hops down from the rim of the sink and walks into the now empty bedroom. He rubs the pronounced bags under his eyes and notices a backpack on Rin's bed. "Don't you need your books?" he asks the empty air, then shrugs. It's not his problem.